Indigenous Artist Denilson Baniwa’s Impactful Visit to Princeton University

Written by
Brazil LAB
Oct. 11, 2023

Denilson Baniwa, an Indigenous artist hailing from the upper Rio Negro region of the Brazilian Amazon, recently concluded an impactful ten-day residency (September 10-19, 2023) sponsored by the Brazil LAB, the Department of Anthropology, and the Princeton University Art Museum. 
Working in a wide range of media including painting, sculpture, and performance, Baniwa grapples with legacies of colonialism in the Americas while highlighting Indigenous survival in the face of it. He often appropriates imagery from historical sources in order to undermine European colonial fantasies, and incorporates modern references to assert the presentness of Indigenous experience. 
During his residency, Baniwa visited Firestone Library’s Special Collections to view colonial books, photographs, and maps of Brazil and the Amazon; and also looked at Indigenous Amazonian objects, prints by contemporary Indigenous North American artists, and other highlights from the Princeton University Art Museum’s collections. The Lewis Center for the Arts provided studio space for Baniwa to work during his stay, where he produced artworks in response to his visit for an upcoming exhibition to take place at Art@Bainbridge in Spring 2024, cocurated by Jun Nakamura from the Princeton University Art Museum and Carlos Fausto and Miqueias Mugge from PIIRS’s Brazil LAB.

Throughout his visit, Baniwa engaged interested audiences from across the University community. He spoke to students at the Lewis Center about his artistic process during an open studio event, met with members of Natives at Princeton to discuss Indigenous connections and dialogue across borders, and in a concluding event on September 19 he addressed a packed room in Aaron Burr Hall. João Biehl, Chair of the Department of Anthropology, and Juliana Dweck, Chief Curator of the Princeton Art Museum Chief Curator, also participated in the discussion.

Describing the effects of colonialism as an open and infected wound, Baniwa described his role as an artist as one of revelation—to reveal the harms of colonization through a constant poking and prodding of the wound, digging “under the skin of history” to reveal Indigenous resistance and survival. “Indigenous peoples have the right to response, we want to leave our traces in the archive,” he concluded.